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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: District 13: Ultimatum

April 25th, 2010

District 13: Ultimatum - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

District 13: Ultimatum is the sequel to District 13, a film arguably best known for introducing Parkour to the general public. (Although many people in this market probably saw it first in Casino Royale.) The first film earned excellent reviews thanks a lot to the unique look of Parkour. Since this is a sequel, it won't have the same novelty factor. But can it thrive on its own merits?

The original is set in 2013 in a suburb of Paris called Banlieue 13, a.k.a. B13, or District 13 in English. Three years previously, the government decided that they couldn't control the gangs in the area, so they put up a huge wall and sealed the criminal element in. This forced the poor but honest citizens that lived in the area to be ruled by this criminal element without help from the police. In this situation, one man, Leïto (David Belle), rose up and fought the gangs, and with the help of an undercover cop, Damien Tomaso (Cyril Raffaelli), eventually managed to not only save the day, but also convince the government to restore order to District 13.

At the beginning of this movie, we are reminded of that promise. But we are told that three years later nothing has really changed. Sure, there's a larger police presence than before, but they are mostly ineffective because they are outgunned. Leïto is still fighting to get the citizens of B13 the rights they deserve, while Damien is doing his best to battle organized crime.

One night a group of special force cops kill a group of beat cops in order to frame the residents of B13 as part of a plot. The special forces want an all-out war with B13 so that they can convince the public they need more powers to take on the dangerous criminals as a way of clearing out B13 to make room for more upscale developments. Now it is up to Leïto and Damien to uncover the conspiracy and stop it. But they'll need some help. Help from an unconventional source.

I started watching the movie in English and about five minutes in decided it was best to watch it in French with English subtitles. However for the most part, the movie would have been just as entertaining without any dialogue at all. I know, I know, that sounds like I hated the movie, but I didn't. There are numerous action scenes in the movie, mostly Parkour chases, but also more than enough fights to keep fans of the genre entertained. The general plot moves along at a good pace and the end where all the competing gangs come together to save the day is fun. On the other hand, arguably the weakest part of the movie was the actual conspiracy theory, which was handled too bluntly to be as effective as it could have been. However, like I said, even if there were no plot, this would still be a fun movie to watch. Hell, that scene with Tao using the blade at the end of her ponytail might be enough to make the movie worth picking up by itself.

I only have the film on Blu-ray, so I'm not 100% sure what is on the DVD. However, I think the "making of" featurette, the production diary, the deleted / extended scenes, and the music video are all on the DVD. The "making of" runs 26 minutes and 34 seconds and is the usual mix of talking heads, clips from the movie, and behind-the-scenes footage. The emphasis is on the last one. The production diary runs 34 minutes and 32 second and is more behind-the-scenes footage. There are 8 deleted scenes that run 9 minutes and 22 seconds, but you watch them in one chunk. There is also a music video.

There is a 4 minute 43 HDNet preview for film, which is the only extra in High Definition. Because of this, I believe it is the only extra that is exclusive to the Blu-ray. (There's also a BD-Live section, but like all Magnolia Blu-rays I've reviewed, all it says is "Check Back for Updates". I've never checked back for updates.) As for the film's technical specs, the video is amazing, with a transfer that is better than its 12 million Euro budget would suggest. Excellent details, colors are strong, as are the black levels. Meanwhile the audio is nearly as strong, with clear dialogue and good use of surround speakers. The Blu-ray costs 35% more than the DVD, which is not a bad deal.

The Verdict

District 13: Ultimatum might not be as good as the original was, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray is a better deal than the DVD, but if you don't have either film yet, grab the Blu-ray Two-Pack.


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Filed under: Video Review, Banlieue 13: Ultimatum